Tributes flood in to ‘inspirational’ Barbara Campbell

The media entrepreneur has been hailed by friends, former colleagues and others as someone who ‘worked tirelessly for the community’

MUCH MISSED: Journalist, editor and publisher Barbara Campbell

‘Pioneer’, ‘trailblazer’, ‘dynamic’, ‘tenacious’, ‘a beautiful friend and mentor’…..these are just some of the words used to describe journalist, editor and publisher Barbara Campbell since the news of her passing was announced on social media on the evening of December 29.

Since the announcement of the tragic news, friends, former colleagues and others who knew her have flocked to pay tribute to a woman who played such an important role in shining a positive media spotlight on stories affecting the black community during a time when they were virtually ignored by the mainstream media.

Campbell has also been praised for work in mentoring and supporting many young journalists who have gone on to successful careers in the media.

After joining The Voice in 1994 and becoming editor of the publication’s sister paper, The Weekly Journal (later called The Journal) Campbell achieved prominence when she went on to launch the bi monthly magazine Live Listings in 1999, described as a multicultural version of Time Out through her company Barbwire Enterprises.

In 2003 she achieved another publishing first with the launch of  Britain’s first Black History Month magazine, Black Heritage Today.

Campbell also developed International Black Women’s Month Magazine, an official guide which helped to consolidate the month in the UK.

SHE WAS PASSIONATE ABOUT HER WORK AND THE BLACK COMMUNITY

Former colleague Denise Dixon Roberts who worked with her on Black Out magazine, which was launched before Live Listings,  spoke of the qualities that made Campbell a successful editor, publisher and passionate campaigner for the black community.

PASSIONATE: Barbara Campbell as a a young reporter with The Voice in the early 90s

She told The Voice: “She played a significant role in our industry and was passionate about her work and the black community, of course, helping to provide opportunities for those coming behind her. She was certainly significant in my career. I worked with her on Black Out. Later I also wrote content for Black Heritage Today. I remember going to editorial meetings at Barbara’s flat in south London where she wore the hats of the editor, publisher and advertising executive.”

Roberts continues: “She was a straight-talking yet bubbly person. I have this memory of Barbara writing to one of the mainstream international women’s magazines who were looking for an editor. She wrote a bold letter challenging them to break protocol and by hiring their first black editor, but of course they didn’t reply. Barbara wanted to see change. Sad to see that she is no longer with us.”

Journalist and lecturer Vivienne Francis agrees. Francis worked with Campbell during her time as a reporter and editor on The Weekly Journal, The Voice’s sister paper.

‘IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO FORGET THE WARMTH OF HER SMILE’

Francis recalls: “I first met Barbara when we both worked as young, fresh-faced news reporters at the Weekly Journal in the mid 1990s. Although we haven’t been in touch for many years, it’s impossible to forget the warmth that her smile and strong character brought to The Voice’s offices.

TRAILBLAZER: Campbell went on to set up her own publishing company

“As journalists, we sought to elevate the issues, concerns and achievements of Britain’s black communities with impartiality and integrity. Barbara’s work achieved this. She had a deep understanding of the communities that she reported on and the issues that needed to be scrutinized.  Her personality and reputation also ensured that she always had good access to the voices that needed to be heard. All of this translated into stories that brought originality and authenticity to The Journal.”

Another writer whose life and work was strongly influenced by Campbell is Monika Ribeiro.

She says: “Barbara Campbell trained me as a journalist while I was freelancing for Black Heritage Today and International Women’s Month magazines. She taught me how to write feature articles, conduct journalistic interviews, research and more. She welcomed me into her home and heart as well.

“I remember proudly presenting my first feature to her. It was embellished – quite “flowery”. She cut so much out. I got upset thinking she took my soul out of the piece. I then showed it to my friend who had read the original. She didn’t hesitate to tell me that Barbara’s pen made it better. So, I decided to stop mourning my style and started paying attention. 

‘HER HEART BLED FOR THE BLACK COMMUNITY’

“Barbara knew exactly what she wanted to say and how she wanted to say it. Her heart bled for the black community and for black stories to be told the RIGHT WAY. I could see a flame in her eyes when she spoke about how much the community needed positive role models and narratives. That passion drove her and made her fight tirelessly against financial, physical and all other odds. It was tough on her, especially towards the end. Sometimes, I think she sacrificed her life for it.”

Speaking about the lasting impact that Campbell had on her life, Ribeiro says:

“These few words are not enough to summarise the impact she made on me as a writer. When I decided not to pursue journalism, she encouraged my poetry and gave me a poet’s corner in Black Heritage Today. In one of her recommendations, she said ‘…Anytime, she is performing l hope to be there – cheering from the front!’ Sadly, she never made it to my shows, but I still hear her voice in my head reminding me to use the word ‘reportedly’ just in case… I edit my stories the way she taught me. Her heart and skills are part of my writing. She was an excellent journalist, editor, boss lady, teacher and friend…

“My heart broke when she got ill, and each time I visited her after that. She should still be here, but I thank God for the gift of knowing her. I’m also grateful for the opportunity to have been there in the last years and days of her life. Babs, thank you! You are cheering me and many others on even after you’re gone. You left so many beautiful footprints in the sand. We know you were here. R.I.P. Lady B.”

INNOVATIVE: How the media covered the launch of one of Campbell’s publishing ventures

‘BABS TAUGHT ME HOW TO CANVAS A BLANK PAGE’

Another person whose life and work Campbell had a huge influence on is Winsome Duncan aka Lyrical.

She recalls: “Babs taught me how to canvas a blank page.  She guided me on how to caress the pen. I unearthed the gift God gave me to tell a fragrant story as she lovingly watched on, whilst helping me shape and chizzle my words out of the fire into print.

“I am a solid writer because she poured into me her wealth of industry knowledge. We worked quite closely together and it was exciting times in her office with the radio switched on and our usual sing-a-long. She was constantly vibrant and had a fierce passion for the black community, arts and culture.

“I was at Barbara’s bedside in the last couple of days of her life and she still had a fighting, winning spirit. We walked the journey together as she became unwell and would confide in me her innermost thoughts. We had some beautiful moments together.

“Ms Campbell was my friend, a mentor and a board member for my social enterprise MPLOYME.  I learned the value of unconditional friendship and grace in her presence. When you have someone rooting for you in all your endeavours, like a buried seed, you must push up through the soil, sprout your wings and fly.

“Barbara Campbell was that sister in the background always championing you on to win and I will always love her for that. I am honoured to spend time with this beautiful soul through the hill and gully. Rest in peace Babs, see you when I get there. My love always.”

FRIEND AND MENTOR: Campbell with Winsome Duncan who she worked with on a number of projects (pic: Winsome Duncan)

Other tributes have highlighted Campbell’s resilience as the publisher behind Live Listings and Black Heritage Today magazines.

The publications were launched at a time when the financial hurdles faced by black publishers and media businesses were particularly steep.

And there are many who praised Campbell’s willingness to keep moving forward despite not getting the financial backing or recognition they felt she deserved.

‘SHE WAS A DYNAMIC ENGAGING PERSON….BUT SHE ALSO TOOK NO PRISONERS’

Patrick Vernon OBE, founder of 100 Great Black Britons site worked with Campbell and witnessed the challenges that black publishers faced in the 1990s and 2000s.

“She was a dynamic, feisty, engaging person with a wicked sense of humour and loved her reggae and lovers rock” he recalls. “But at the same time, she took no prisoners. It is no coincidence that she chose the name ‘Barbwire’ as the name of her company. It was not just a play on words. It reflected her steely will, tenacity, determination to fight for her business as she tried to provide a service to the community and sustain her family.

“Despite all the opportunities around advertising and sponsorship as black history was becoming more fashionable and acceptable, she had to work 10 times as hard as a woman in a male-dominated world.

“She often would be working around the clock in her flat in Battersea editing, pitching for business and raising her two young children Leanna and Layton. It was always struggle when it came to publication deadlines in meeting the costs of printing her magazines. However, she still managed to get her magazines out no matter what.”

‘BARBARA’S LEGACY NEEDS FURTHER CELEBRATION’

Vernon continues: “In many ways the impact of a running a small business with very little support has an impact on your physical and mental wellbeing. Although she enjoyed going out, church, singing and being with her children and children the years of stress and pressure took its toll in the end.

“Barbara’s legacy to the Black British publishing needs further documentation and celebration. She was a modern version of Claudia Jones in using her publication to educate, inform and inspire the community.”

POSITIVE MEDIA IMAGES: Barbara Campbell’s first editorial for Black Out magazine

Paying tribute to her tenacity as a publisher radio presenter and Voice columnist Dotun Adebayo said: “My abiding memory of Barbara Campbell is that you could never keep this good woman down. She got knocked down so many times in her efforts to “be” somebody but she bounced right back with her cup always half full, if not brimming over with love, ideas and enthusiasm. 

‘She didn’t need the establishment’s approval. She was a self-made publishing mogul.’


“Of course she was somebody. She didn’t need the establishment’s approval or acknowledgment. She was a self-made publishing mogul who presided over a magazine empire that she invested her energy and determination into and no small amount of personal wealth. Every time I saw her she was on another entrepreneurial publishing venture, the details of which she laid out for me with that illuminating half-smile that seemed to say, ‘You t’ink me did done? Me jus’ ah come man, me jus’ a come.’

We are all the poorer for the loss of this amazing woman.”

Entrepreneur and community activist Dr Jak Buela said: “The quality of her magazines were unparalleled, covering articles and featuring many people who owe her a debt of gratitude for providing a spotlight on their work – including me. Despite being a pioneer or because of it, she eventually found that others with more resources than her entering the field. This obviously took its toll.

SUPPORTIVE: Campbell with Monika Ribeiro, another young writer she mentored

‘SHE WAS A PIONEER, A TRAILBLAZER WHO WORKED TIRELESSLY FOR THE COMMUNITY’

“A remarkable pioneer of UK magazine publishing – the likes of which we are unlikely to see again. RIEP my dear sister Barbara, those of us who knew you, know exactly how much of a trailblazer you were.”

Speaking about how Campbell dealt with the challenges of the publishing industry journalist and broadcaster Henry Bonsu said: “I have nothing but admiration for Barbara and what she achieved. After editing he Journal she could have just become another jobbing freelance but she didn’t. She struck out on her own, rode the challenges that have sunk other media companies in our community and created a platform that took Black History Month to a new level.

‘HER PLACE IN BLACK BRITISH MEDIA HISTORY IS ASSURED’

“And somehow she did it with a broad smile  – at least whenever I saw her  – even though she must have been dealing with all kinds of advertising and funding crises. Barbara has gone too soon but her place in the annals of black British media history is assured.”

Keysha Davis, a journalist who worked with Campbell on Live Listings and Black Heritage Today added: “Publishing is a notoriously male dominated industry, but undeterred, Barbara would continually forge ahead self-publishing magazines and periodicals with often limited resources producing stellar results.

IMPORTANT LEGACY: Campbell was passionate about supporting the black community

“She was a pioneer, trailblazer and renaissance woman who worked tirelessly to support and celebrate the Black British community she cared so greatly for. I am so thankful for the help and guidance she granted me. May her soul rest in perfect peace.”

Barbara Campbell June 30 1958 – December 27 2019

Comments Form

15 Comments

  1. | Delroy Constantine-Simms

    This is such a sad loss. Especially in a time were many journalists are afraid to tackle issues regarding black history unless endorsed by the mainstream. Barbara was a professional and had standards so high, that you knew you had to get the copy right and the facts in order. My work only got rejected once, it never happened again. May she rest in peace and her legacy live on. She is an example of journalist integrity that new journalist should follow. Facts before fiction. You will be missed. Condolences to her family. Delroy Constantine-Simms

    Reply

  2. | Lyrical

    Barbara Campbell, gone but not forgotten, I love you.
    RIP

    Reply

  3. | Anthony Everest

    Love her. Been to her at least twice. She mentored me on writing and gave my first album review for Follow Your Dreams. So sad.

    Miss You. RIP. 🥰🥰🥰

    ANTHONY EVEREST

    Reply

  4. | Mikey

    Gone too soon…

    ….and at a point where we likely need her optimism and energy more than ever. My vocabulary is too meagre to even contemplating the breadth of this woman’s abilities. She was unparalleled in the scope of her talents, as a writer, editor, as a boss. British publishing has missed her creativity and unflinching opposition to injustice and revisionism over the past few years. We must now face a very hostile landscape without her leadership and tenacity. Nevertheless, we have her example as an eternal beacon and yardstick to gauge our efforts against.
    Condolences to her family (particularly daughters Leanna and Layton) and friends.
    Dear Barbara, cherished friend, mentor and source of encouragement Rest In Eternal Power

    Reply

  5. | Darell Philip

    I wish I had known her. Reading all the tributes and memories of her from leading black Journalists I respect and admire has left me inspired and even more determined to succeed in the profession.

    While she is no longer here, I would like to thank Campbell for being a trailblaizer and an inspiration in which to emulate and follow. The black media world is a better place because of her and we will continue to shine a light and be a voice for the voiceless so that her great legacy continues.

    Love and God’s blessing to her children and family.

    Darell J Philip
    Freelance Journalist & Teaching Assistant

    Reply

  6. | Pamela Franklin

    Such a supportive individual. A sad lost to our community. Condolences to her family.

    Reply

  7. | Michelle Brooks

    Barbara Campbell was one of my first interviewees on the OHTV TV Series Make Your Mark in 2009 and she was a joy to work with. Though I was initially nervous, visiting her flat to prepare for the interview and take photos she quickly put me at ease with her down to earth nature and you can see the results in our YouTube interview here https://youtu.be/BQzy2X-k4po

    She encouraged me to continue with my TV and Online Journalism Content Company ShowPatrol.TV and we even had ideas for Projects together but my TV Projects and her Magazine work prevailed. She was so passionate about the Community she served and it showed.

    She will be sorely missed and I can’t think of anyone to take her place. She was one of a kind and I was honoured to have called her a friend.

    Reply

  8. | Sheila Bonnick

    Barbara very kindly published an article on myself years ago. Must add that I am a cousin of hers which I hadn’t even realise til we met in her office. A more vibrant and articulate lady you’d be pushed to find. The interview was fantastic and the article eVen better. I’m in touch with our other family members meanwhile especially her half brother Who’s devastated . Sadly missed but not forgotten

    Reply

  9. | Monika Ribeiro

    We know you were here, Barbara Campbell.

    Rest in Peace.

    Reply

  10. | Juliet Edwards

    I worked with Barbara Campbell at the Voice in the late 90”s when she worked in the Journal. She was a hard worker and had a pioneering spirit. May she rest in peace.

    Reply

  11. | Michael and Claudette of BVTVoneUK

    Condolences to the family and friends of Barbara Campbell one of the most inspiring and loving person we have had the pleasure of knowing for many years. R.I.P. Barbara your smile and warmth will remain in our hearts forever. 🙏

    Reply

  12. | Nana Oforiwaa

    Rest in strength, power and peace with the Spiritual Onyame. Whenever l meet you, you were always upbeat and lively.

    Travel well and safely to Onyame.

    Nana Oforiwaa

    Reply

  13. | Shola Ogunseitan

    Barbara was a great personality, warm, vibrant, creative, full of energy and so hard-working. We worked together in the BlackOut and Live magazines and other publications for well over a decade. She sometimes overwhelms by the strength of her character but you can never deny her integrity and the purity of her intentions.

    What a loss.

    May she rest in perfect peace and may our Lord Almighty strengthen her family, friends and colleagues.

    Shola Ogunseitan.

    Reply

  14. | Antonia Charles

    I had the pleasure of working with Babs and she truly was an inspiration. A hard working phenomenal woman who was an excellent editor as well as a publisher. May this great woman rest in eternal peace.

    Reply

  15. | Beverley Mason

    Barbara was a true trooper. I dearly miss her charm, kindness and tenacity. Suffer no more

    Reply

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